Snow Mountain Air Force Station

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Snow Mountain Air Force Station (1952-1968) - A Cold War U.S. Air Force Radar Station established during the Korean War. First known as Godman Radar Site. Located near Fort Knox, Meade County, Kentucky. Initially assigned a Permanent ID of P-82 and later, a Sage ID of Z-82. Closed in 1968.

History

Established 16 Apr 1951 and became operational later in 1952 as Godman Radar Site after the nearby Godman Air Force Base. The radar site was manned by the 784th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron. Redesignated as Snow Mountain Air Force Station in the summer of 1956 after Godman AFB was transferred to the U.S. Army.

Initial equipment included a FPS-3 search radar and a FPS-4 height-finder radar. In 1958, the initial radars were replaced with an FPS-20 search radar and an FPS-6 height-finder radar. In 1961 a second FPS-6 height-finder was added. In 1962 the FPS-20 search radar was modified to become an FPS-67.

This configuration (a SAGE qualified long range search radar and two SAGE qualified height-finders) met the requirements for transition to SAGE System operation.

SAGE System Transition

The transition of the manual GCI system to the automated SAGE system began with the installation of the FST-2 coordinate data transmitter and search radar upgrades. The FST-2 equipment digitized the radar returns and transmitted the digital returns to the SAGE direction center. Under the SAGE System, interceptor aircraft were directed to their targets by the direction center computers and controllers, greatly reducing the need for local controllers and equipment at every radar station.

The FST-2 was a very large digital system using vacuum tube technology. Over 6900 vacuum tubes were used in each FST-2 requiring 21 air-conditioned cabinets, 40 tons of air conditioning, 43.5 kva of prime power and usually a large new addition to the operations building. The FST-2B modification added two more cabinets but with newer solid state (transistor) technology to process coded responses from aircraft transponders.

SAGE System Operation

Snow Mountain SAGE Direction Centers & Sectors
Assigned Direction Center Sector
1 Jul 1961 - 1 Aug 1961 Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07 Chicago Air Defense Sector
1 Aug 1961 - 25 May 1962 Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06 Detroit Air Defense Sector
25 May 1962 - 1 Apr 1966 Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07 Chicago Air Defense Sector
1 Apr 1966 - 18 Jun 1968 Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06 34th Air Division

Snow mountain AFS began operating as a manual SAGE System site in 1961, initially connected to the Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07. In manual mode aircraft were locally tracked and track information was passed to the SAGE Direction Center by teletype or voice circuits.

On 1 May 1962, the squadron designation was changed from the 784th AC&W Squadron to 784th Radar Squadron (SAGE) indicating the new SAGE System role.

The site began operation as a semi-automatic SAGE site in March 1963 initially feeding the Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07. In this mode of operation the FST-2 digitized the radar data and sent it directly to the direction center without human intervention and the only operations task was the height-finder confirmation of target altitude, a dull and repetitive job.

After the switch to semi-automatic operation, the station Commander lamented in a Louisville Courier-Journal (29 Sep 1963, Page 25) article that "We just work here now" Computers have taken over old jobs. The article's headline, "Dull Job Still Vital - Glory's Gone From Radar Hill" provides rare insight into how the operations crews felt about the SAGE system transition. On the maintenance side, the article details the switch from local control over maintenance to Direction Center control over local maintenance activities. Maintenance personnel had to wait until a distant headquarters approved all maintenance actions and passed the approval down to a Maintenance Control Center (MCC). Under the old system, all maintenance was directed locally and the only higher headquarters permission sought was when the radar was taken off the air.

Closure

The closure of Snow Mountain AFS was publicly announced in May 1968 with an anticipated closure date in July 1968. Snow Mountain Air Force Station and the 784th were deactivated on 18 Jun 1968.

Gap Fillers

Snow Mountain AFS was responsible for the maintenance of one remote unattended gap-filler radar site. The unattended gap filler sites were placed in locations where the main search radar lacked coverage. These sites were equipped with short range FPS-14 or FPS-18 search radars and FST-1 Coordinate Data transmitters that sent digitized radar target data to a SAGE direction center and to the main radar site. Both the radar set and the FST-1 were dual channel to increase site up time. Maintenance teams were dispatched for regularly scheduled maintenance or when fault indicators on the FSW-1 remote monitoring equipment suggested the site had problems. The FSW-1 also allowed remote operation of specific functions such as channel changes for the radar and for the FST-1, it also allowed remote operation of the diesel generators at the gap filler site. The Snow Mountain AFS gap-filler radar was located at Madisonville, Kentucky.

Snow Mountain AFS Gap Filler Radar Sites (edit list)
ADC NORAD Location State Type From To GPS Notes
P-82D Z-82D Madisonville KY FPS-18, FST-1 1959-07 1960-12 37.363591,
-87.4969
Building exists

Physical Plant

The physical plant of the site was divided into the main site, a cantonment area, a housing area and a radio site. The main site housed the operations buildings, the radar towers, and the backup generators. The cantonment area housed the enlisted barracks, the bachelor officer's quarters, the orderly room, the dining hall, the motor pool and other support buildings. Apart from the main site was a small housing area for married personnel.

A separate radio site housed the radio equipment for directing aircraft intercepts. Like most early radar stations, Snow Mountain originally had a radio transmitter site and a separate radio receiver site used by local controllers for voice direction of fighter interceptors to their targets. With the SAGE System, the SAGE Direction centers had the primary task of directing intercepts and the local radio sites were reconfigured, usually into a single site that was known as the Ground to Air Transmitter Receiver (GATR) site. The GATR site communicated with the interceptors from either the local site or the SAGE direction center via voice commands and/or a digital data link.




Snow Mountain AFS Major Equipment List
Search Radar HF Radar Data Systems Comm
Unit Designations
  • 784th Aircraft Control & Warning (AC&W) Squadron (1952-1962)
  • 784th Radar Squadron (SAGE) (1962-1968)
784th Assignments
  • 16 Apr 1951 - Activated at Fort Knox, KY, assigned to 541st AC&W Gp
  • 6 Feb 1952 - Transferred to 50th AD.
  • 16 Feb 1953 - Transferred to 4706th Def Wg.
  • 1 Mar 1956 - Transferred to 58th AD.
  • Summer of 1956 - Site redesignated to Snow Mountain, KY.
  • 1 Sep 1958 - Transferred to 35th AD.
  • 15 Nov 1958 - Transferred to 32nd AD.
  • 1 Jul 1961 - Transferred to Chicago ADS. Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07
  • 1 Aug 1961 - Transferred to Detroit ADS. Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06
  • 1 May 1962 - Redesignated from AC&W Sq to 784th Radar Sq (SAGE).
  • 25 May 1962 - Transferred to Chicago ADS. Truax SAGE Direction Center DC-07
  • 1 Apr 1966 - Transferred to 34th AD. Custer SAGE Direction Center DC-06
  • 18 Jun 1968 - Discontinued.


Snow Mountain Air Force Station Partial Commanders List (edit list)
Assumed Relieved Rank Name Cullum Notes
1953~ 1954~ Major Jessop, Paul D. N/A
1957~ Major Whitaker, N/A
1962~ Major Thomas, Donald R. N/A
1963~ 1966~ Major Dunn, John J. N/A
1968~ Major Huffstickier, Jack D. N/A

Current Status

Satellite views show the site has been level with the exception of the radio site.


Location: Snow Mountain in Meade County, Kentucky.

Maps & Images

Lat: 37.89741 Long: -86.00240

See Also:

Sources:

  • Cornett, Lloyd H. & Johnson, Mildred W., A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization (1946-1980), Office of History ADC, Peterson AFB, Colorado, 31 Dec 1980, 179 pages, Pdf, page 168.
  • Winkler, David F., Searching the skies: the legacy of the United States Cold War defense radar program, USAF Hq Air Combat Command, 1997, 192 pages, Pdf, page 117.
  • USGS Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) Database Entry: 2090209

Links:

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